Top of the Rock will enter their third season as a member of the fantasy hockey league The Price is Right. Despite our best intentions in previous drafts, we still iced the worse teams in those seasons.
In 2017 we joined our first fantasy hockey league. That was the year the “Swedish” theme was born. We lost in the semi-finals that season because our goalies didn’t play enough games, even though we had beat our opponent 8-4. That team’s makeup almost got us to the finals, so we rolled with it in 2018 when we joined The Price is Right.
This league has two oddities when it comes to rosters and statistics. Teams are only allowed to set their lineups on Monday and can not make any adjustments until the following week. Despite having great players in the lineup, their NHL schedules sometimes reduce their playing time, limiting their point contributions.
Besides the usual scoring categories, like goals, assists, and shots on goals, teams are rewarded for racking up penalty minutes. Even when we had the league’s biggest offenders on our team last season, it didn’t seem to matter as the losses just piled up.
For the shortened 2020-21 NHL season, we decided to go back to a strategy that almost got us to the finals in 2017-18 when we were a participant in a different fantasy league. Here’s a breakdown of why we did what we did during this season’s fantasy draft on January 10th, 2021.
Draft Preview & Selections
After selecting second overall in 2019, we dropped nine spots down to the eleventh spot. In this year’s snake draft we selected in the following slots: 11, 14, 35, 38, 59, 62, 83, 86, 107, 110, 131, 134, 155, 158, 179, and 182. There are many pros and cons to this position. We lose out on the top players in the league because rarely do the superstars fall down this far. However, we get to make the two picks in a span of four spots, which allows us to cross multiple players off our list in a short time frame.
We participated in five mock drafts with mixed results. The first one was very similar to our final roster selections; however, we were curious about what the team would look like if we just grabbed the best player available when it was our turn to draft. In our second mock draft, we did just that and still wound up with a subpar team in the mock standings. In our third mock draft, we tried to tailor our player selections to the league settings, focusing on penalty minutes. Once again, we had a lacklustre team but were number one in penalty minutes. After crunching the numbers in a handful of spreadsheets, we decided to revert back to the league’s best Swedish players.
The first 10 selections in the 2021 draft featured the best of the best in the NHL. Connor McDavid (Edmonton) went first, despite spending most of the 2019-20 season in the shadow of his teammate Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton), who went third overall. Nathan McKinnon (Colorado) went in between the league’s highest-scoring duo. New York state rivals Artemi Panarin (NY Rangers), and Jack Eichel (Buffalo) went fourth and fifth, while Alex Ovechkin (Washington) and archrival Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh) went sixth and seventh. Auston Matthews (Toronto) followed in eighth before Mikko Rantanen (Colorado) went ninth overall. Andrei Vasilevsky (Tampa Bay) was the first goalie in the 10th spot, while Patrick Kane (Chicago) was the final selection in the opening round.
With our first pick, 11th overall, we selected Mika Zibanejad (NY Rangers). The Blueshirts’ future captain scored 41 goals in 57 games last season, so his production warranted a first-round selection. After Dropping Klefboms’ two selections, we were on the clock again and took the draft’s first defenceman, Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay). The reigning playoff MVP is Yahoo’s highest-ranking defender, which made his selection a no-brainer.
We lost out on elite center Elias Pettersson (Vancouver), who went three spots after Hedman. We expected to miss out on a few players; we just didn’t expect to miss out on so many in this draft. Goalie Robin Lehner (Las Vegas) was going to be our anchor in between the pipes. Still, he was selected by Donkey Kong Country midway through the third round, just three spots before we selected Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado).
Lehner’s selection in the previous round threw a wrench into our plans, so we made a reaction decision and grabbed future Calder winner Igor Shesterkin (NY Rangers), much higher (38th overall) than his average draft position (62th overall).
The round rolled on through the fourth and fifth rounds, where we finally made another pick at the end of the fifth. We selected Calgary Flames forward Elias Lindholm, who may collect 30 goals in the upcoming short season. After two opponent picks, we grabbed Nashville Predators superstar Filip Forberg, who may be one of the most complete Swedish players in the league.
Jacob Markstrom (Calgary) was pegged to be our backup goalie, but he fell into the lap of Benn Tallon Sens Won, last year’s champions, with the 73rd overall pick. That forced us to move down our list, which resulted in the selection of Niklas Backstrom (Washington) at the end of the seventh round. Erik Karlsson (San Jose) was next on our wish list but was selected one spot after Backstrom.
Toronto’s William Nylander was our next pick in the eighth round, which also witnessed Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo) going to Hanz&Franz 91st overall.
The hits to our wish list took another hit in the ninth round. Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson went to Bettman’s Bubble with the 106th overall pick, one spot before we selected Patric Hornqvist, now of the Florida Panthers. The round ended when Dropping Klefboms added to their Swedish blueline with the selection of John Klingberg (Dallas), thus snatching up two of our more coveted players.
With only six selections left, we had all but seen our blueline hopes go up in smoke. We may have select the best Swedish defenceman in the game in the first round; however, he needs a strong supporting cast to make us a successful team; by this time, we had missed out on all tier-one defenceman and had to regroup and fall back to a handful of lesser-known players.
Viktor Arvidsson (Nashville), 10th round 110th overall, was our next selection and will join his linemate, Forsberg, as he looks to rebound for an injury plague 2019-20 season.
In the 11th round, we grabbed another winger, selecting Victor Olofsson from the Buffalo Sabres. He was joined by Las Vegas Golden Knights center William Karlsson in the 12th round. Karlsson rejoins the team after spending two previous seasons on the roster.
After Karlsson’s selection, we realize that we had a full lineup of forwards yet only had one defenseman (Hedman) and one goalie (Shesterkin). We were forced to make our final three selections to build up the backend, which will be our Achilles heel all season.
Our next selection, 13th round 155th overall, was Nashville Predators defenceman Mattias Ekholm, who will join his Nashville teammates in the lineup. This also marks his third tour of duty with the team. In the 14th round, we grabbed Vancouver Canucks rearguard Alexander Elder. Elder was always on our wish list because he usually finds himself in the penalty box, contributes on the power play, and is usually a plus player.
When it came to our selection in the 15th round, 179th overall, we went off the board with Marcus Pettersson, a very low ranking defenceman from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite his low shots on goal numbers, he is a plus player who is on pace for the team’s third-most penalty minutes.
Our final selection in the 16th round, 182nd overall, was our backup goalie, Linus Ullmark, from the Buffalo Sabres. Ullmark will split time with Carter Hutton as most teams will have one or two back to back game situations every week in the condensed schedule.
When we started this Swedish, it didn’t take long to see a pattern develop, which is Swedish players tend to find themselves and bunch up in NHL cities. As of January 13, 2021, there are 99 Swedish players on NHL rosters. The Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames each have six players apiece, which are league highs. Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens are the only team without a player on their roster.
Top of the Rock will employ 15 of the 99, which accounts for 15% of the league’s Swedish players. The Nordics will account for 93% of our roster since our main goalie is from Russia. Our competitors selected seven other players, which means our fantasy league will play with 22% of the Swedish players available on opening night.
The chart below showcases how successful our team could be on early projections.
Here’s the breakdown of our 2020-21 statistics:
- Standings: 8th – 22 points out of first (62.5)
- Goals: 4th best – 48 goals out of first (248)
- Assists: 7th best – 100 assists out of first (377)
- Plus/Minus: 6th best – 101 points out of first (+52)
- Penalty Minutes: 8th best – 133 minutes out of first (382)
- Powerplay Points: 7th place – 58 points out of first (186)
- Shots on Goal: 5th place – 405 shots out of first (2115)
- Wins: 12th place – 44 wins out of first (27)
- Goals Against Average: 6th place – 0.23 percentage points out of first (2.65)
- Save Percentage: 3rd place – tied for 1st – (0.919)
- Shutouts: 11th place – 10 shutouts out of first (1)
In conclusion, we had a player wishlist, which included some of the country’s best players. In the end, we ended up missing a few of them, which may lead us down a different path than initially projected. Only time if we had the best route planned or this new path is the answer we’ve been looking for.